Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Film Noir Christmas Carol

This week, I am looking forward to watching – for the umpteenth time – the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol.” It is the one starring Alistair Sim as Scrooge and the one I consider the best of the bunch.

Sim looks like he is having the time of his life playing the old skinflint. Director Brian Desmond Hurst keeps the actor on course and the sentimentality under control, especially in the Tiny Tim scenes and the flashbacks of the young Ebenezer. He also keeps the action clipping right along as he shoves Scrooge into some wonderfully nightmarish sequences.

The fright and anxiety of Scrooge, the high contrast black and white photography and the moody sets, place Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella in the world of film noir.

Its depiction of 19th century England could also group it with director David Lean’s two terrific Dickens films, “Great Expectations” (1946) and “Oliver Twist” (1948).

Anyone who has not seen it, should look for it and watch it. Anyone who has seen it will probably watch it again.

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season. Hope you will visit this page again in the New Year.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Guilty Bystander by Wade Miller

If Bob Wade and Bill Miller (writing as Wade Miller) set out to create one of the most noir of noir novels, they achieved their goal – although they came perilously close to parody with Guilty Bystander.

The writing partners poured everything into this one. There is a drunken, down-and-out detective, a seedy hotel, a femme fatale, a good girl who could be more “fatale” than the other woman, a kidnapped child, a fortune in missing jewels, a bunch of rival gangsters, a couple of mysterious murders, and a lot of violent action.

Oh yeah, and rain. It rains all the time in this not-so-sunny California setting.

One morning, Max Thursday, wakes with a world-class hangover to find his ex-wife in his shabby hotel room with bad news. Their little boy has been kidnapped and her new husband, a doctor, has disappeared.

Max sets out to find the boy. The clues he picks up keep leading him back to a woman named Angel who, coincidentally, lives in his hotel. Angel knows far too many shady characters.

In the course of the 144 pages of the Signet paperback I picked up somewhere for a buck (original price, 25 cents), Max gets framed, beaten, tortured, and dunked in the ocean – twice – before putting the puzzle together, recovering the child and solving the murders and the mystery of the jewels.

Bob Wade (1920-2012) and Bill Miller (1920-1961) wrote more than 30 novels together, including Kiss Her Goodbye  (see here) and Kitten With A Whip (see here). There is more about them at Thrilling Detective.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)
(And remember, my book,
Lyme Depot, would make a great gift for a crime reader.)